It is not often that I read something about literary translation that strikes such a chord with me as this interview with Daniel Hahn, director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, and Urdu language translator Fahmida Riaz, during a literary translation workshop taking place in Karachi on 13-17 October.
In particular, this Q&A:
What linguistic qualities are the hardest to translate?
Oh, all of it. Translation is impossible! And I don't just mean it's really, really difficult, but really, it's not actually possible. There's not a single word in any of the languages I translate that can map perfectly onto a word in English. So it's always interpretative, approximate, creative. Anything that is, itself, a 'linguistic' quality will by definition be anchored in a particular language — whether it's idiom, ambiguity, or assonance. All languages are different. There are congruences between languages that are more closely related, of course, but those relationships are very much in the minority.
The truth is out.